Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Encounters | An occasional feature

It's a tough market for Tampa Bay teens seeking summer jobs

Middleton High School graduate Te’a Stone, , has been treading in the summer job market for months. A recent analysis shows Florida tops 30 percent unemployment in ages 16-19.

KIM WILMATH | Times

Middleton High School graduate Te’a Stone, , has been treading in the summer job market for months. A recent analysis shows Florida tops 30 percent unemployment in ages 16-19.

TAMPA — For four months, Te'a Stone filled out online resumes for theme parks and chain stores.

She marched into fast-food restaurants, practically begging for a chance.

She called everybody she could think of and told them how hard-working she is.

She prayed.

The 18-year-old was looking for work at a tough time. Teen unemployment this summer is expected to reach a record 25 percent nationally. Navigating that climate was a job unto itself.

Then, some luck. At 9 a.m. last Tuesday, Te'a was woken up by her phone. A Burger King manager wanted to interview her. She rubbed her eyes and told him "Thank you, sir," and got up to get ready.

Finally.

• • •

Te'a, who just graduated from Middleton High School, has a resume she made for a school assignment. It extols her time on the cheerleading squad and 3.0 GPA. It lists her bright smile under "Skills."

She isn't just competing with her peers. She's competing with her parents' peers and her parents' parents' peers. The recession turned minimum wage gigs into lifelines for a lot of folks. Te'a's GPA and her smile are going up against decades of experience and advanced degrees.

The rising minimum wage — now $7.31 in Florida — means employers are even more picky about whom they hire for jobs Te'a wants.

"By raising the minimum wage, I feel like you're essentially making it illegal for some of these teens to get a job," said Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the nonprofit Employment Policies Institute in Washington.

Last week, Saltsman's institute released an analysis of 25 states showing that unemployment among 16- to 19-year-olds averages 25 percent when you count discouraged teens who have quit looking. In 10 states, including Florida, it tops 30 percent.

"Whether or not this is the worst summer on record, it's certainly shaping up to be a tough one for teens," Saltsman said.

• • •

Te'a didn't know all that when she got started in March.

In her free time, she popped into stores and restaurants. She submitted her resume to Busch Gardens online. A couple of her friends got in-person interviews that way. But Te'a didn't.

She went to Bank of America and learned there is a lengthy waiting period before applications are approved or denied. Te'a is still waiting.

At Little Ceasars, they told her to come back when a supervisor was there. She came back, but never met the right person.

At Burger King, she was told they only took applications online. So she went home, filled one out and went back to the restaurant. They told her she filled it out wrong.

Te'a's guidance counselor, Elmer Rhone, told her to stay optimistic. But inside, Rhone was worried.

"We used to always be able to connect them with people hiring," she said. "At least four or five kids by this time of year."

• • •

It was time for Te'a's interview.

She walked into Burger King and got behind a guy ordering a No. 6 combo meal.

She had thought about wearing heels, but her brother told not to overdo it. Instead she wore a gray shirt with lace on the sleeves and nice jeans.

The guy behind the counter wore a tie and a name tag: Johnny. He was the manager from the phone call.

Te'a waited, fiddled with her hair, looked around. The manager, Johnny Banks, told her to take a seat in the back.

When he joined her, Te'a reached up to shake his hand — firmly, but not too firmly. She remembered to smile, maintain eye contact, and answer questions without too much hesitation.

He asked her about school, about college, about why she wanted to work at Burger King. She told him she had a 3.0, wanted to study education and that Burger King was her favorite fast-food restaurant.

It was over in 10 minutes. Banks told Te'a to come back Saturday to interview with his assistant manager, Neil.

• • •

She showed up 15 minutes early. Nervous, but feeling like she actually had a shot. Again, she kept eye contact and smiled.

Is she okay with minimum wage?

Definitely.

What is she willing to do?

Anything.

The assistant manager told her to come back in a couple of days. She could fill out her paperwork then.

He said they'd have a uniform ready for her, and she finally realized what had happened.

She starts today.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Suggest an Encounter

Encounters is dedicated to small but meaningful stories. Sometimes they play out far from the tumult of the daily news; sometimes they may be part of it. To comment or suggest an idea for a story, contact editor Mike Wilson at mike@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2924.

It's a tough market for Tampa Bay teens seeking summer jobs 06/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2011 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays morning after:Matt Andriese trying to put good finish on injury-marred season

    Blogs

    RHP Matt Andriese can't make up for the 2 1/2 months he missed due to a hip injury this season after getting off to a solid 5-1, 3.54 start.

    But he can use his last few outings to remind the Rays, and himself, of how good he can be.
    He did it the hard way Thursday, allowing three runs as four of the …

  2. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]
  3. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us

    Columns

    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on …

    A Fort Myers woman who'd recently undergone a double-organ transplant painted a sign that said, "HOT SINGLE FEMALE SEEKS SEXY LINEMAN TO ELECTRIFY HER LIFE" and sure enough, she got her power turned back on. [Photo from video]
  4. Florida education news: Makeup days, accountability, charter schools and more

    Blogs

    MAKEUP DAYS: The Pasco County school district alters the daily schedule of 11 schools to make up teaching time missed because of Hurricane Irma, avoiding the …

    With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.
  5. How visiting a scenic Cuban resort can help save green sea turtles

    Wildlife

    The Florida Aquarium has been collaborating with Cuba's National Aquarium since 2015 to help save coral dying throughout Caribbean waters.

    The beaches of Cuba's Cayo Largo are home to a large population of green sea turtle nests. The Florida Aquarium will lead eco-tours of Cayo Largo next year that will help protect the turtles and fund research.  [Avalon Outdoor]